I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world, to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')

These poems are works in progress and may be updated without notice. Nevertheless copyright applies to all writings here and all photos (which are either my own or used with permission). Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your blog posts as much as possible.

5 August 2011

Heaven Café

May we all meet in heaven café
writing for eternity
— Natalie Goldberg
 (dedication, Writing Down the Bones)

I sit in Heaven Café
with my friends Leah and Jennie,
writing for eternity
at this time on this date
in our own places.

Today the café is called La Vela.
It has fake stucco orange walls,
a fake clay pot — half a pot —
jutting from one as if embedded,
and framed photos labelled Italia.

The long black is stewed and bitter,
the muffin fell into bits
when I touched it, leaking
melted butter sauce on my purple shirt.

Heaven has strange manifestations
sometimes, I think as the noise
of Sunnyside Shopping Centre surrounds me,
the cacophony I often tune out
suddenly strident, many-faceted.

Someone is banging metal on metal
rhythmically, purposefully, as if working.
Doors slam, machinery hums
in a constant background,
loud music blares from speakers —
different tunes from different outlets —

and a monologue resonates
through the microphone,
its manufacturedly cheerful note
blurring indecipherably.

People move constantly up and down the ramp,
round and round the circular floors:
a spinning kaleidoscope, never still.
11 o'clock arrives. I shudder in relief
and prepare to depart. But then
I look again and see

Jennie's dark head somewhere in Auckland
bent over as she writes rapidly,
a sideways tilt as she chews her pen
and ponders the landscape half-denuded of trees;

Leah's fair curls in Haifa,
head similarly bent, at a corner table
amongst a talkative crowd
of crones with auburn perms
and faint dark moustaches,
and somewhere in the distance
the sound of guns.

‘Heaven is where the heart is.’
Or is that home?
Our hearts are on the page as we write and write.
Home is a notebook, home is a poem,
home is each other, faithfully meeting,
wondering how to create for eternity,
and keeping our hands moving.

Posted for Meeting the Bar: Critique and Craft at dVerse.
I've been working on this one for 10 years! Any ideas how to improve it?


  1. nice..i like story...meeting with friends to write is a great exercise and a lot of fun as well...maybe that is heaven. smiles. i like the rapid "homeis..." section toward the end...

    a few things that jump out...the repitition of fake toward the begining is an easy fix...find some synonyms or just rework a bit..ends up a bit wordy through there.

    like the line, heaven has some strange manifestations...

    think i would nix a lot of the pronouns and its as well...ie. its manufactured...the its is not needed...

  2. That is a lovely name of a writing cafe :-)

    I leave it up to the crit to pare down this poem and make it tighter.
    For me, I like the scenes that you painted, with each writer lost in their world of writing. But we share one theme when writing - we share our hearts; and if blessed, we share a home in a community.

    Thanks for your inputs for my poem.

    Happy day~

  3. it sounds like this piece is very close to your heart . very good start with the quote...would be interesting to know if the quote started the poem for you or if the poem was first and someday you found the quote?

    the whole write has a very surreal feeling for me and i think it's packed with coded bits and pieces of life..collected over the years - 10 years - wow...

    "our hearts are on the page as we write and write" think that sums the feeling of the poem for me...it feels like you've written your heart into this poem...the emotions and relationships poured onto paper..

    i don't think i get half of the details as it seems to be so personal but i much like the pouring out of the heart. i think it feels too personal for me to touch it, to criticize it - i think some of the poems we
    write may be more for ourselves than for others...no..? what do you think Rosemary..?

  4. Thanks to you all for taking the time to respond in detail.

    Brain, I appreciate your tips and will do some reworking as suggested.

    Claudia, the quote, and the idea behind it, began our practice of meeting to write. Interesting notion that some poems we write may be more for ourselves. Yes, I imagine so, but hadn't thought of it before. This one, I guess, was for the three of us. However, I'd like to give it wider appeal as well.

    Heaven, I suspect 'paring down and making tighter' is exactly what's needed.

  5. LOL. Brian, I see I called you Brain! Perhaps a nice Freudian slip?

  6. The crisp sensory description helped me feel like I was there with you, seeing what you saw, hearing, tasting...loved it. Cutting some of the pronouns is a good idea but in tightening, don't lose the details that makes it come alive.

  7. Wow a cafe inside the dverse bar.. i like it... a large Moka pls... sounds like a great space you have created an great imagined space - i feel as though i want to be at a table next to you...drinking...writing...perfect.


  8. Hi Rosemary,

    Thanks for your suggestions on my poem "Divorce". They've made a world of difference! Please stop by and see the results. I promise to offer some suggestions for "Heaven Café" later tonight.


  9. Thanks, Victoria. Yes, it's possible to pare things down too much and take the life out of a poem. I'm glad of the timely reminder.

    Dear Tom, maybe you can create your own, in virtual reality or....

    David, my pleasure. As you probably know by now, I did stop by again. You sure can take a suggestion and run with it! :)

  10. Hi Rosemary,

    Lovely poem! I think it's wonderful how you've tended to it for 10 years. The love and care shows!

    In keeping with this week's crit theme, let's bring out the pruning shears. Hope you don't mind if I rewrite the first few stanzas, just to provide a flavor of what's possible ...

    Heaven Café
    with Jennie and Leah,
    writing for eternity --
    this time this date
    our own places.

    Today the café
    is La Vela.
    Fake stucco walls,
    fake clay pots,
    framed photos
    labelled Italia.

    Stewed and bitter
    the long black,
    into bits
    the muffin

    at my touch --

    Suddenly strident,
    the cacophony of Sunnyside Shopping
    Center surrounds me.

    Hopefully this gives some ideas to sharpen the focus and better manage the pacing.

    In the last stanza, I'd lose all references to "home" and replace them with "heaven", eliminating lines two and three altogether.

    Of course, these are just my thoughts -- the poem is yours!


  11. came back to see your response to my questions...smiles
    read the other input as well and like a lot what david has done...he cut quite a bit but makes it really strong and tight in my opinion..think i would've gone the same way but was a bit intimidated to start cutting because it seemed to be so personal..
    thanks for your helpful input at my piece as well rosemary

  12. David, thank you very much! You have given me the clues I needed. Ten years of tinkering left me too close to this piece to see what to do. It was high time I let fresh eyes have a look. I like your advice very much. Will put it together with what the others said, and hopefully get the poem as good as it can be.

  13. Well, I like the details of your original piece, especially the ending as is. I like Brian's suggestion.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, too.

  14. Dear Claudia and Laurie, thanks for these comments. I intend to keep the details whilst tightening the language. And I won't be doing the rewrite in a hurry. Laurie, I am still debating with myself about the ending. I guess the only thing is to try it both ways and see.:)

  15. it feels well-worked but not overworked. I love how the different nodes and people are connected. each scene feels real with all the details. I enjoyed it muchly.

  16. Thanks Pearl, I greatly value your opinion. So maybe I won't tinker too much more. :)